Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP - The Inside View

Dive into the free market and get a taste of premier litigation or transactional work at one of California’s most famous global legal enterprises.

Imagine LA as a humble, skyscraper-less dusty town with a population of around 5,000 people. Struggling? We can’t picture it either. But this is the environment Gibson Dunn emerged from when one of its founders, John Bicknell, traveled to the nascent megacity in 1872 to set up a law practice. LA has obviously come a long way since then, and so has Gibson Dunn: the firm is now a global enterprise, with its largest domestic office in New York and ten overseas bases in key economic centers such as London, Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore. “It’s a prestigious name – both across the country and around the world,” our interviewees confidently agreed, with one boasting that “you don’t hear anything but the highest praise.”

That praise does come in droves in Chambers USA: across its 80+ rankings, Gibson picks up numerous top-tier nationwide nods for its antitrust, appellate, corporate crime/investigations, product liability, and securities practices (among others). Gibson is widely recognized as a litigation powerhouse across the country, particularly in its home state of California, but also in New York (where it’s ranked in the ‘elite’ category) and DC. It’s also considered world-beating for its corporate investigations and anticorruption work in Chambers Global. And while the firm’s status as a litigation maestro is well known, its transactional credentials are certainly nothing to be sniffed at either: Chambers USA holds the firm’s M&A, energy and real estate teams in very high regard across the country.

“The firm’s free-market approach to work assignment allows you to work on the matters you want to work on and really shape your early career.”

While the firm’s reputation alone attracts a slew of applications from ambitious graduates, it wasn’t the only reason our interviewees singled out Gibson within their pack of top target firms. “For me, it was important not to be placed immediately into one practice area,” one junior told us. “For example, I didn’t want to be branded a while-collar lawyer. The firm’s free-market approach to work assignment allows you to work on the matters you want to work on and really shape your early career.” Others were attracted to the firm’s substantial presence in ten cities across the US. A source in DC commented: “We don’t feel like a satellite office of a major New York firm – we have autonomy and generate our own work.”

Gibson Dunn is frequently an exceptional performer in our research. In 2021 the firm made the US top 10 in Associate Satisfaction, Retention, and Pro Bono

The Work



So how exactly does the free-market system work? Well, rather than having the work filtered through by partners or departmental assignment coordinators, Gibson associates hunt down matters for themselves. Not that the process is vicious in any way, as this interviewee explained: “There isn’t a competitive atmosphere at all, and the partners are very cognizant that the work is spread around. The firm does a good job of linking you up with people when you’re new.” After the three-year mark, “you tend to specialize" within one of the litigation, real estate, tax, corporate transactions, or business restructuring and reorganization buckets. But for their first two years, juniors can opt to rotate between the  main practice areas every six months through the firm's formal rotation system.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all approach or journey,” another junior weighed in. “Some people might join one huge busy matter, whereas others might be working on eight smaller matters for different partners in different departments.” While the perks of the system are clear – “freedom and flexibility” – we wondered if it came with any downsides? “When you first start, fresh-faced and eager to make a good impression, saying no to a partner when you’re too busy does feel awkward,” one junior confessed. Another added: “There have been a few matters which I wasn’t gung-hoed to say yes to but wanted to stay in someone’s good graces. However, most people who come to you with projects that aren’t considered the most fun will appreciate you saying yes and reward you with better work later.”

“There’s no one-size-fits-all approach or journey.”

Around two-thirds of the associates on our list were in the litigation group. Most offices offer a good spread of disputes work covering the likes of commercial, antitrust, appellate and white-collar matters. Different offices may have slightly different balances of work. A lot of appellate and regulatory work is done out of the LA, Dallas and DC offices, for example. DC also handles a lot of labor and employment cases. Owing to the size of the New York office, it sees all kinds of cases, but associates noted "a lot of securities and corporate litigation” in particular. It also has a strong media and entertainment litigation practice.

One junior litigator in New York explained that “around 50% of my work has been on one big civil litigation matter, with the rest consisting of white-collar investigations and pro bono cases.” They added that “for most people, there will be one case that they are more involved with and have more responsibility on. For example, on my larger case, I’ve been able to second-chair depositions, prepare a witness to take the stand and draft sections of a brief.” Similarly, a junior in DC explained that “40% of my work has been government-facing and regulatory work, 50% has been general commercial, and 10% has been devoted to pro bono.” Among their work highlights were “being able to draft a presentation and talking points for partners, and liaising with data consultants.”

Litigation clients: Chevron, Facebook, Novartis. The team has represented Facebook in many contexts following the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica controversy, including the widely publicized Federal Trade Commission investigation, the dismissal of a securities class action lawsuit, and shareholder derivative litigation.

About a quarter of the juniors had entered on the corporate transactions track and could take on assignments spanning M&A, private equity, bankruptcy, venture capitaland more. The latter is mostly tackled by the firm’s Palo Alto, San Francisco and LA offices and offers juniors the chance to work with “many cutting-edge clients in the life sciences and digital sectors,” asone source explained. We heard that the firm has a particular focus on companies in the mid to late stages of their lifecycle, with many deals involving cross-border investments. In the M&A space, “we do everything under the sun including, buyouts and reorganizations,” a junior told us, before adding: “You can bite off as much as you can chew in terms of responsibility. On the more basic side you might be taking charge of due diligence, but you can also draft key documents and negotiate those with counsel.”

Corporate clients: Merck & Co, Stone Canyon Industries, News Corp. Represented PepsiCo in its $3.85 billion acquisition of privately held drinks company Rockstar Energy Beverages. 

Gibson Dunn’sreal estate team is made up of over 100 dedicated lawyers located across the United States, Europe and Asia. “It’s called real estate but there is a lot of finance work; the majority of work I’ve done has been debt financing for clients,” an interviewee helpfully explained. The group also handles real estate M&A, acquisitions and dispositions of assets, and has a dedicated zoning and land use team in California. In our concurrent associate data survey, the group received the highest marks for the following metrics: contact time with partners, autonomy over work, and the development of legal skills and practice knowledge.

Real estate clients: Hudson Pacific Properties, J.P. Morgan Investment Management, Welltower Inc. Advised Hudson Pacific during its $1.65 billion recapitalization of its Hollywood Media Portfolio, which consisted of three Hollywood Studios and Class A office properties.

Pro Bono



Pro bono was another area singled out for universal acclaim in our associate data survey. “It’s an amazing program,” one interviewee in Orange County was keen to highlight, “especially now there is a lot of social unrest in America. The firm has given us numerous opportunities to get involved on issues such as policing and racial injustice – any issue you care about, you can work on.” Another added: “I’ve recently been doing Federal Tort Claims Act cases concerning families separated at the border, as well as matters related to the suspected dismissal of prisoners’ cases.” Associates can bill all pro bono hours, which appealed to our sources when it came to their first year especially, with many racking up more than 200 hours to help get them started. Even transactional associates were eager to point out that “there are plenty of opportunities to get involved on nontransactional issues.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all (US) attorneys: 118,284
  • Average per (US) attorney: 105.1

Culture



For one interviewee, the cornerstone of Gibson Dunn’s culture is its ‘New Lawyer Academy,’which takes place over three days every year in a different location to welcome its fresh-faced class of junior attorneys. “It’s an event where every single new lawyer from the firm’s network across the world gathers in a single location. It’s a great opportunity to meet your future colleagues and it speaks to how much they care about the people they hire – you get a really good sense of what the firm is about.”

“...it’s very easy to find your people at a place like Gibson Dunn.”

More generally, juniors were quick to bring the influence of the free-market system back into the culture conversation. “It reinforces good behavior between partners and associates,” a New York source commented. “Partners who are taskmasters won’t have any associates returning to them for work, so it encourages them to treat you with respect.” Another interviewee felt the system also “helped you match with people that mesh with your working style and personality. For example, if, like me, you’re a person who finds aspects of law school intellectually fascinating, it’s very easy to find your people at a place like Gibson Dunn.”

Career Development



“The hours are long, but the free-market system means you can continue to find work you find interesting, which makes it feel sustainable,” said one source, emphasizing how this made them view their future career development optimistically. And, while attrition at the associate midlevel is common at any BigLaw firm, our interviewees highlighted that “when people do leave, it’s always with an open invitation to come back.” In DC, we were told that associates depart to “go in-house or into a political space, such as working for a judge.” In New York, juniors explained that “there are people who go in-house or move to smaller boutique firms or pursue clerkships before coming back to the firm.”

Diversity & Inclusion



“From the updates they have provided on partner meetings, they are clear that they see it as a failure on their part,” one source told us, adding that “the efforts to improve it don’t seem tokenistic.” In New York, a junior highlighted that “we have a great program that’s led by the head of our hiring committee, who is a black, female partner. Also, our most recent summer associate class was the most diverse we have ever had.”

In 2019, the firm also awarded several diversity and inclusion scholarships, some of which are rolled out annually, offering eligible 2Ls a place on the summer program and a $25,000 award. Eligible 1Ls can apply for a place on the summer program through the firm's recently revamped 1L Fellowship program, which also offers recipients mentoring opportunities. However, while our interviewees and data survey respondents were impressed by the firm’s recruitment efforts, the survey results indicated that more could be done to promote inclusivity training within the firm.

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: no requirement

While there’s no official billing requirement, the associates we spoke to reckoned aiming for 1,950 was manageable. One representative junior reported that “an ideal week would see me billing 40 hours. That compares to when I’m busy where it tends to be between 50 and 60 hours.” Their comments are consistent with our data survey participants’ responses, which registered an average of 51 estimated hours billed in the previous week (a busy week for many then!). Another source weighed in: "I tend to bill between 2,100 and 2,200 hours over the course of the year, which includes a few hundred hours of pro bono.”

Moreover, while our data survey results suggest there were a few disgruntled juniors, most were happy to report that their vacation time was well respected. “I went somewhere where I didn’t have internet and I billed under ten minutes for eight days,” one junior told us, while another emphasized that for “big life events such as honeymoons, people are beyond respectful.” Salaries and bonuses are lockstep at Gibson, with a vast majority of our survey respondents strongly agreeing that the bonus amount awarded is fair.

Strategy & Future



Associates were happy to be kept in the loop: “At our lawyer retreat they walked us through all our revenues, our ten largest clients and realization rates, which I don't believe every firm is willing to do for its associates." A source added that the firm’s approach during the global pandemic has been “to keep on keeping on: we’ve had no staff or salary cuts, so we’re staying busy.” Our survey respondents on average gave a stronger agreement rating for conservatism over ‘growth mode’ for Gibson in this research round, suggesting that the firm, is, like many others, taking stock of the situation before pursuing fresh expansion avenues.

The Big Interview: Ken Doran served as Gibson Dunn's chairman and managing partner for nearly 20 years. We caught up with him at the end of his tenure to talk about the firm's strategy and trends in the legal market.

Get Hired



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 1,735 

Gibson Dunn conducts OCIs at 26 law schools and accepts resume drops year-round. Hiring partner Perlette Michèle Jura tells us: "Our 'feeder schools' are exactly what you would expect – the Top 25 law schools provide the majority of our incoming summer and new associates, with Harvard, Chicago, Stanford, Georgetown, Penn, Virginia, NYU, Berkeley, and Yale being the top schools for summer 2020." The firm does recruit outside this group, "especially for offices located in the same cities as those schools." 

The interviews themselves are conducted by a team of partners and associates, and Jura tells us us that they’re looking for candidates who display “strong critical thinking skills, have impeccable professional judgment, and exhibit a strong work ethic.” She also flags the firm’s free-market system, explaining that candidates need to seek out their own work. Associate sources agreed: “We want someone who has a go-getter type of attitude, but you also have to be personable and willing to take on work so people will want to work with you.” Another revealed: “When they’re recruiting at schools they’ll put on an initial screener in which you are – or are not – invited to a dinner. It’s two hours long and it’s essentially an extended second interview, after which the associates stay and talk about them for several hours.” 

Top tips for this stage: 

"Come into the interview prepared, show enthusiasm for legal issues and work, and exhibit a level of energy and conviction that signals to us that the candidate would thrive in our free-market system and ultimately contribute to the firm as a whole." – hiring partner Perlette Michèle Jura 

 

Callbacks

Those invited back to GD’s callback stage will see firsthand the firm's appetite for socializing (and for dining). Callbacks consist of one-to-one interviews with a mix of partners and associates, followed by one or two meals with Gibson Dunn attorneys. 

Jura explains: “These meals offer candidates another more informal setting to demonstrate why they would be successful at our firm and likewise gives our lawyers the opportunity to interact with the candidate in a less structured environment.” She adds that at this stage, “more questions might be asked about a candidate’s specific experiences or a candidate’s particular connection to and/or interest in the city in which their selected office is located.” Associates told us: “By the time their resume reaches my desk I’m confident they’re qualified, so from that point we’re looking for someone who’s going to perpetuate the Gibson Dunn culture and understand our work environment.” 

Top tips for this stage: 

"Researching Gibson Dunn interviewers with whom the candidate will be meeting as well as the firm generally and the select office ahead of time enables the candidate to offer specific questions and more relevant topics of conversation." – hiring partner Perlette Michèle Jura 

  

Summer program

Offers: 368

Acceptances: 178

GD’s summer program, according to Jura, “is designed to help facilitate a smooth transition from law school to legal practice and provides training in areas such as legal writing, depositions and corporate transactions.” Summer associates can work with multiple partners and practice groups and get feedback on each assignment. They also get stuck in with pro bono matters, as well as a busy social calendar which ranges “from sporting events (a Mets baseball day in New York is a perennial inclusion) to small-group dinners at partners’ houses to legal networking events (like a tour of the Ninth Circuit courthouse in Pasadena, led by a Circuit Judge) to an annual diversity reception.” Jura tells us: “The vast majority of our summer associates return and join us as associates after they finish law school or, if applicable, their clerkship.” 

Top tips for this stage: 

"Summers should take every opportunity (whether in the office or at external events) to connect with as many of our attorneys as possible. Not only will this give them more exposure across their office, it also creates more opportunities to develop the mentoring relationships that are so essential to success in the law." – hiring partner Perlette Michèle Jura 

And finally…  

An associate told us: “You have to be willing to make an effort on small projects and be collegial because you have to be pleasant to work with in a free-market system.” 

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

333 South Grand Avenue,
Los Angeles,
CA 90071-3197
Website www.gibsondunn.com

  • Head office: Los Angeles, CA
  • Number of domestic offices: 10
  • Number of international offices: 10
  • Worldwide revenue: $2,008,334,000
  • Partners (US): 336
  • Associates (US): 783
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contact: John O’Hara, Chief Recruiting Officer (JOHara@gibsondunn.com)
  • Hiring partner: Perlette Michèle Jura
  • Diversity officer: Zakiyyah Salim-Williams
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 129
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 1Ls: 9, 2Ls: 174
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Dallas: 6, Denver: 7, Houston: 7, Los Angeles: 33, New York: 64, Orange County: 10, Palo Alto: 6, San Francisco: 13, Washington, DC: 37
  • Summer salary 2021: 1Ls: $3,894  2Ls: $3,894 
  • Split summers offered? Yes
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? No

Main areas of work
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher is renowned for both its litigation and transactional work. Major practice groups include antitrust, artificial intelligence, betting and gaming, capital markets, class actions, environmental, electronic discovery, information technology, intellectual property, labor & employment, media and entertainment, mergers and acquisitions, privacy, cybersecurity, consumer protection, securities, transnational litigation, and white collar defense. The firm is especially known for its appellate work, particularly in the US Supreme Court.

Firm profile
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher is a full-service global law firm, with over 1,355 lawyers in 20 offices worldwide, including ten offices in major cities throughout the United States and over 250 lawyers in their London, Paris, Munich, Beijing, Brussels, Dubai, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Singapore and São Paulo offices. The firm is recognized for excellent legal service and its lawyers routinely represent clients in some of the most high-profile litigation matters and complex transactions in the world.

Recruitment
Law Schools attended for OCIs in 2021:
Berkeley, Chicago, Colorado, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Houston, Irvine, Loyola, Michigan, NYU, Pennsylvania, Pepperdine, San Diego, SMU, Stanford, Texas, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Yale.

Recruitment outside OCIs:
The firm accepts applications from students and graduates from all law schools and not solely from those listed above.

Summer associate profile: Gibson Dunn’s summer program is the primary means through which new lawyers become a part of our firm. Each summer, Gibson Dunn brings together approximately 135 of the most accomplished, ambitious, and personable students from the top law schools across the nation, providing them with real involvement in the high quality legal work that our firm does every day. Summer associates are involved directly in the firm’s representation of its clients, maximizing their exposure to the practical aspects of lawyering. In addition to interesting client work and substantive training programs, the summer program includes many unique social activities that give summer associates the chance to make lasting connections with each other and the lawyers of the firm.

Summer program components: The firm provides significant and substantive training to its select group of summer associates. Each summer associate receives detailed feedback on the projects that they perform plus numerous formal training programs. This is all within the context of a program filled with fun social events that are designed to connect summer associates with current attorneys, mentors, and the cities in which Gibson Dunn has offices.

Social media:
Recruitment website: www.gibsondunn.com
LinkedIn: Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
Facebook: GibsonDunnCareers
Instagram: gibsondunnandcrutcher

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Private Equity: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Insurer (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences (Band 4)
    • Litigation: Appellate (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 2)
    • Media & Entertainment: Transactional (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Technology: Outsourcing (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Energy & Natural Resources (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Antitrust (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 1)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 1)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Media & Entertainment: Litigation (Band 2)
    • Outsourcing (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Litigation: Appellate (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Antitrust: Cartel (Band 1)
    • Appellate Law (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Issuer Counsel (Band 3)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations: The Elite (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
    • Energy: Electricity (Regulatory & Litigation) (Band 4)
    • Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 2)
    • Energy: Oil & Gas (Transactional) (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 3)
    • FCPA (Band 1)
    • Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 3)
    • Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • International Arbitration: Enforcement Spotlight Table
    • International Arbitration: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions (Band 3)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 2)
    • Leisure & Hospitality (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences (Band 4)
    • Outsourcing (Band 1)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 3)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Product Liability: Consumer Class Actions (Band 1)
    • Projects: PPP (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Retail: Corporate & Transactional (Band 1)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 2)
    • Securities: Regulation: Advisory (Band 1)
    • Securities: Regulation: Enforcement (Band 1)
    • Sports Law (Band 4)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 2)
    • Transportation: Rail (for Railroads) (Band 2)
    • Transportation: Road (Automotive) (Band 3)